Early-season lake trout action

I write my column this week from Chattanooga, Tenn., where I’m spending some time fishing at Lake Chickamauga—site of the final FLW Tour tournament at the end of June.
I decided to stay down south until after the next event taking place next week at Grand Lake, Okla. and figured that spending some time scouting Chickamauga before the official practice immediately prior to the event might pay off.
While I’m on the road, I stay in touch with all of my buddies at home and have been getting some good fishing reports this week. Walleye fishing seems to be pretty good everywhere, especially since the weather has improved.
My friend, Jay Samsal, and his wife, Marne, meanwhile, spent the past weekend chasing lake trout on a small lake north of Kenora and had some great results.
Spring is prime time to fish for lake trout because they are a cold-water species, so they are much more active and they can be found in much shallower water than during the rest of the open-water season.
Across Sunset Country, we have many world-class lake trout fisheries on both big waters like Crow Lake and Lake of the Woods, which offer great opportunities at big fish, and countless smaller inland lakes which can offer big numbers of fish.
Lake trout are one of the most beautiful fish that inhabit our lakes and they are fun to catch. Hard fighting, lake trout can grow large in size, with 30-pound fish possible in many area lakes.
Jay Samsal reported that they had a great weekend catching lake trout of all sizes, including a few in the 15-pound range. They used several tactics to catch fish that can be used on any water that lake trout live in.
They focused their effort on 25-30 feet of water and trolled with two different presentations. Jay was fishing with a half-ounce bottom bouncer with a six-foot leader of 14-pound test monofilament tied to a spoon tipped with a strip of sucker belly meat.
Instead of the spoon, they also caught fish trolling with minnow baits that we use for bass and pike during the rest of the season.
Trolling with these set-ups allowed them to cover water. And when they caught multiple fish in the same general area on their trolling passes, they then caught a few extra fish by jigging the area with soft plastic tubes and minnow baits.
Lake trout are a great-eating fish, as well, but anglers should know that they are a very slow-growing fish, so please, folks, release the big ones. They are so much fun to catch.
We’re lucky that we have the great opportunities that we do, so let’s all take care of them. On most waters in our region, lake trout grow at a rate of about a half-pound per year, so if you killed a 10-pound trout, it would take nearly 20 years to replace that fish.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of great experiences fishing for lake trout early in the season—both on Lake of the Woods and at several small lakes up the Jones Road, north of Kenora.
This early-season opportunity only lasts for a few weeks in the spring before lake trout move to deeper water for the rest of the summer.
So if you are thinking about a fishing trip this coming weekend, you should take advantage of this great spring-time bite.

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